The herb gardener

Wander around the community garden and you’ll see one plot without a single vegetable in it. That’s Dawn’s herb garden. Dawn Hartney moved to Newstead two years ago, from Metcalfe.

‘I’d wanted to start a herb farm and grow lavender. I did a course at NMIT in Melbourne and found land at Metcalfe, planted 100 lavender bushes and other herbs. I gained organic certification. But it was the beginning of the drought. I was there for ten years and the last six were very difficult, because I was also working in Melbourne. It was impossible on tank water, to manage the farm,’ says Dawn.

A week after moving to Newstead, Dawn joined the garden and has renewed her love of herbs.

‘I’ve always loved gardening and my new house wasn’t suited for a garden at once. I’m only five minutes walk away. It’s an easy garden to be in- nice and flat and easy to work. I love the design of it and the way people are growing what they want for their own needs, plus sharing from the bigger communal areas.’

‘I still love growing herbs. I’ve forgotten a lot and the community garden is giving me a second chance, so I’m relearning, in a way,’ she says.

Dawn has set her plot up as a demonstration garden. Two ‘dry’ beds (watered less regularly) contain rosemary, sage, lavender, german chamomile, five different sages as well as pineapple sage, echinacea and thyme. Another ‘wet’ bed (watered more often) has four mint varieties, comfrey, roman chamomile, lemon balm, lemon grass and bergamot. A ‘fertile’ plot (fed organic fertiliser) grows curly and flat leaf parsley, several garlic types, mexican marigold, valerian and dill.

‘I wanted to grow things of interest to other people that they might try growing. Herbs are so diverse, their flowers and foliage, you can do so  many things with them, from culinary, medicinal through to aromatic, or herbal teas. Penny Woodward talked a lot about companion planting, plants that attract and repel. Herbs are very good at that.’

‘To me, the ideal thing is to grow herbs and be able to value add. Being so versatile, they could provide an income source for the garden in time,’ says Dawn.

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